Fun, fun, fun ... Risky Business is a winning combination of sizzle, sex and hilarity and Amy Andrews totally rocks the natural, laugh-out-loud dialog...moreFun, fun, fun ... Risky Business is a winning combination of sizzle, sex and hilarity and Amy Andrews totally rocks the natural, laugh-out-loud dialogue.
I loved the contemporary setting, Brisbane (where I live) and even more perfect ... a book store, Birdie's secondhand romance bookstore *sighworthy* - the almost tangible smell of aged ink on weathered paper. And pepermint. Two aromas synonymous with the shop.
Sensible, career focused, romance reading Samantha, of the body image issues and talking, tap dancing eggs HA. And then there's sexy, risk-taking Nick. After Nick's grandmother Birdie passes away he swaps his extreme sports career for running the bookstore while he recuperates from injury.
Despite Nick and Samantha's instant attraction I loved how naturally things progressed between them. Samantha's many blind date dramas cracked me up, not to mention the whole vibrator, vodka, Tim Tam scene. As much as I cringed over her self-deprecating comments, I adored Nick for building her up.
Have to say I was deliriously happy for Samantha (and myself) when her eggs finally shut the hell up with their cheeping ;) (less)
That ethereal cover caught my eye, (reminiscent of Picnic at Hanging Rock) the synopsis appealed and when I discovered Thornwood House was th...more4.5 stars
That ethereal cover caught my eye, (reminiscent of Picnic at Hanging Rock) the synopsis appealed and when I discovered Thornwood House was the work of Australian author Anna Romer, I had to have it. Thornwood House is a beautiful atmospheric read, where the past and present collide in dark secrets and obsession.
Audrey Kepler welcomes the chance for a fresh start with her daughter Bronwyn when she inherits an old homestead in the small town of Magpie Creek in South East Queensland. Thornwood House was the childhood home of Bronwyn's father, Tony.
Thornwood House holds tragic history - an old photo, letters and a diary open the door on a haunting love story and murder and mystery spanning four generations.
Reading Anna Romer's website; Magpie Creek is based on the actual town of Boonah ... I spent quite a bit of time in the area growing up and Anna captures the essence of rural Queensland, the beauty and harshness of the Australian landscape ... her writing is a sensory treat.
Eerie, haunting ... Eloise Oxer's narration adds that extra special something to the story.
Anna Romer is a fresh new voice in Australian fiction; with her debut novel she's earned herself a fan. I'll definitely be picking up her next book. (less)
I loved The Bungalow & Morning Glory but with Goodnight June Sarah Jio catapults straight onto my favourite author list. As a book lover and unaba...moreI loved The Bungalow & Morning Glory but with Goodnight June Sarah Jio catapults straight onto my favourite author list. As a book lover and unabashed re-reader of childhood favourites, I adored Goodnight June.
June inherits Bluebird Books after the death of her great aunt Ruby and it was that quaint bookstore, holding so much history, memories and secrets that held me captivated. Then June discovers the letters of friendship and support between Ruby and Brownie (children's author Margaret Wise Brown) and I was mesmerised ... what a joy to read, sincere and heartwarming.
Sarah Jio blends the past and present seamlessly with these letters and I had a hard time remembering that it was in fact, fiction ... that the origin and inspiration for Goodnight Moon was a wonderful imagining.
Goodnight Moon is a childhood classic near and dear to my heart, not so much for the story now but the memories it evokes. Read to me by my mum, the soothing rhythm, bunny's bedtime routine and effort to delay sleep holds universal appeal, and I have my mum's old copy which makes it extra special.
It took me a while to warm to June, hardened by her profession and success, but as she reevaluated her life and realised the importance of family and forgiveness she won me over. And all that professional knowledge proved useful in her fight to save her bookstore from foreclosure. I think I fell in love with Italian restaurant owner Gavin before June did ... he makes a pasta for every occasion and emotion ... what's not to love??
Goodnight June is a little bit romantic and a whole lot of love, it's warm and comforting and couldn't have come at a more perfect time in my life. Slipping into its pages was time spent in Bluebird Books, which felt like coming home.
and PS seeing it coming didn't lessen my enjoyment of the story ... not one little bit.
I rarely reread books unless they're children's books but Goodnight June will be one I will, time and again. It's a keeper on my bookshelf and earns a special place in my heart. (less)
1. History and truth - Sue Monk Kidd's powerful and sensitive blending of fact and fiction delves into...more5 Reasons The Invention of Wings made my Top 5
1. History and truth - Sue Monk Kidd's powerful and sensitive blending of fact and fiction delves into the ugly roots of slavery and racism. The Grimké sisters grew up in a wealthy, slave-owning South Carolina family yet became significant abolitionists and social activists. The Invention of Wings is loosely based on Sarah Grimke's story and the narration alternates between Sarah and Hetty (Handful) the slave given to her on her 11th birthday. It's enlightening having both viewpoints.
2. It's no secret Jenna Lamia is one of my favourite narrators ... she has southern down pat but Adepero Oduye is Handful. Sensitivity and empathy add another dimension to this powerfully narrated story.
3. Charlotte, Handful's mother and the Grimke's seamstress, spends nights making quilts, and her own story quilt. Preserving her family's story was so touching it brought me to tears ... beauty amidst the pain and suffering.
4. It's vivid, appalling, haunting and compelling. It's about strength, courage and the wings of change. I liked the Secret Life of Bees but The Invention of Wings is deeper, more complex, more moving, it's just ... more.
5. Novels like this bear witness to our less-than-human history. You trust me don't you? It's a must-read. (less)
Take Me On takes place during a period of Crash Into You and without spoiling things for anyone who hasn't read the series let me just say I enjoyed i...moreTake Me On takes place during a period of Crash Into You and without spoiling things for anyone who hasn't read the series let me just say I enjoyed it a whole lot more than I thought I would. Rachael's brother, West was pretty much a dick in Crash Into You and I wasn't thrilled Take Me On was going to be his story. Must have been that smack up the head I gave him because he redeemed himself. I still think the family need to take some of their megabucks and cough up for serious therapy ... the Lousy Parent award won't cost them a thing.
I was also surprised at how much I enjoyed the MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) aspect, McGarry nails the gym atmosphere, the hard-core training, sweat-blood-tears determination, the fight side of things in amateur/pro sport.
Haley I liked immediately, she's tough and yet vulnerable, protective of those she loves and she fights for what she believes in. And West, well he grows in this installment and his growth and maturity is realistic, not some inexplicable change in character. And I liked him (nearly choked admitting that) and his biceps. West and Haley are just plain good for each other, the chemistry is there, sparks fly and it gets heart-melt-y good.
Kudos to Katie McGarry, she keeps changing it up and the whole troubled, heart-achy theme is not getting the least bit old. Her exploration of relationships is insightful, the issues are real, (homelessness and depression) it's big on those values like honesty, integrity and responsibility and it's tempered with hope.
Breaking the Rules is next, Dec 30th 2014, we re-visit Echo and Noah from Pushing the Limits which will be awesome but what I really want to know is when does Abby get her book? Come on, give us a hint, don't leave us hanging ;)(less)
Following on from Ten Beach Road we join Maddie, Avery, Nikki, Kyra and Deidre as they breathe life back into The Millicent, a run down art deco mansi...moreFollowing on from Ten Beach Road we join Maddie, Avery, Nikki, Kyra and Deidre as they breathe life back into The Millicent, a run down art deco mansion in South Beach. I've fallen in love with this eclectic bunch of women ... they could renovate a garbage can and I'd read.
Of course that might have just a little to do with the author so stay with me for a little Wendy Wax fangirl-ing ...
* love her style * strong female characters * insightful family & friendship dynamics * dry sense of humour * 90 year old Max owner of The Millicent is an absolute darling * beach setting *sigh* ... sun, sand, sea and cocktails; coming into winter in Australia it goes a long way to feeding the fantasy, even with the humidity, hard work and sweat storyline
Rebuilding The Millicent, their relationships and battered finances in the harsh camera spotlight (yep more reality show than remodeling. much to their horror) was once again pure entertainment and escapism for me and I can't wait for the next chapter in their lives.
After recently listening to the audiobook of While We Were Watching Downton Abbey (and loving it) I joined the Wendy Wax fan club and dived straight into her Ten Beach Road series.
The synopsis gives you the gist of things but what I love most about Wendy Wax is she totally gets her characters, female friendships, family dynamics, those mother-daughter relationships that make you feel like you need therapy ... do you know what I mean? She writes in such an intimate way they feel real to you, not just characters in a book.
Even having little in common with Avery, Nikki and Madeline's former lifestyle (I identified with Maddie as an empty-nester) I really could see myself joining them for strawberry daiquiris and cheez doodles (I figure they're a bit like our Aussie cheezels) at sunset. From mutual adversity to unlikely friendship, I liked the bond they shared, their humour and sarcasm, I am woman hear me roar strength, vulnerability, temper, quirks ... I loved it all.
The renovation of Bella Flora was a reno on steroids ... I loved the attention to detail, the blood, sweat and tears, the nitty gritty may not be everyone's cup of tea but it really appealed to me.
I'm following straight on with Ocean Beach (any excuse for another daiquiri) in anticipation of the July 1st release of book 3, The House On Mermaid Point. (less)
More than just a quirky title, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is a unique tale that held my attention from start to finish. 15 year...moreMore than just a quirky title, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is a unique tale that held my attention from start to finish. 15 year old Christopher Boone narrates his own story.
He's a maths genius, doesn't like to be touched, struggles with emotional cues and connections, he's unintentionally funny, dislikes corn haha, hates the colours yellow and brown, he finds order soothing and his condition makes him very literal.
Early in the story Christopher investigates the killing of his neighbour's dog Wellington, unearthing something that turns the structure and order of his life upside down, pushing him far outside his comfort zone.
Mark Haddon captures Christopher's 'voice' insightfully, his unique perception of the world, how he thinks and feels and how his autism affects those around him ... you can't help but be pulled in. The prime-number chapters, narrative style and other quirks all add to the story.
Excellent narration by Jeff Woodman, worth the read. (less)
Tanya Saad's memoir is compelling, articulate, informative and moving. With the hereditary BRCA1 gene mutation and Tanya's family history it wasn't a...moreTanya Saad's memoir is compelling, articulate, informative and moving. With the hereditary BRCA1 gene mutation and Tanya's family history it wasn't a case of if she got ovarian and/or breast cancer but when. Preventative treatment choices are confronting and life changing on both a physical and emotional level ... bilateral mastectomy, removal of fallopian tubes and ovaries but in terms of risk management, they're also life-affirming.
Tanya's childhood and family recollections are woven through the adult narrative; growing up in the small, country town of Taree, her Lebanese heritage, bullied in school, work in the family shoe store, the bond between herself and sisters, Paula and Vivian, their 3 month holiday to Lebanon in 1990 just months after the end of the civil war, her beautiful relationship with grandmother Teta.
As an adult Tanya moves on from Taree, to Canberra and a successful career and competitive sporting life. Following confirmation that Tanya, along with her sister Paula, had the BRCA1 gene fault, Tanya frankly shares the emotions, statistics, screenings, surgical choices, skin/nipple sparing/reconstruction options, and her ultimate decisions.
I love Paula and Tanya's 'mantra' adapted from the movie Cool Runnings ..
I have pride, I have power. I'm a badass mother that don't take no crap from nobody.
A read rich in culture and courage, a tribute to the ordinary - extraordinary women (and to a lesser extent men) faced with harmful BRCA gene mutations.
I'm a latecomer to this little treasure and not sure I can add anything new with my review but I can't not share my thoughts. It's a heart-achy read w...moreI'm a latecomer to this little treasure and not sure I can add anything new with my review but I can't not share my thoughts. It's a heart-achy read with Lily's sad family circumstances and the racial tension but The Secret Life Of Bees embodies the strength of the female spirit ... it's warm with compassion, honesty and wisdom.
I adored all the characters, well except for that oxygen bandit T-Ray, Lily's abusive father. Lily is both wise beyond her years and naive, completely honest with the reader and utterly charming. August Boatright was another favourite character, I loved that she was Lily's safe harbour.
Jenna Lamia is one of my favourite narrators, she nails the distinct voices of 14 year old Lily, her nanny Rosaleen and the Boatright sisters. Jenna Lamia also narrates other favourites; Beth Hoffman's Saving Ceecee Honeycut and the heart warming Looking For Me.
The Secret Life Of Bees is beautifully written, gorgeous imagery, endearing characters, it's just ... enchanting. (less)
I am in awe ... seriously, how does Emilie Richards do it? This is the 3rd installment in the Goddesses Anonymous series and it's another win...more4.5 stars
I am in awe ... seriously, how does Emilie Richards do it? This is the 3rd installment in the Goddesses Anonymous series and it's another winner. Winner ... an unusual choice of words for the heartbreaking issue of domestic violence but at the heart of No River Too Wide is strength, hope, courage and triumph.
Emilie Richards writes with truth, I know this ... for 10 years I lived an abusive marriage. (thank God not Janine's) In some ways it feels like a lifetime ago, in others, I'm a work in progress. (To Move Forward, To Begin Healing 2010) I'm not looking back ... breaking the silence goes some small way to breaking the power and hold of abusers.
... as does having a support network. It takes courage to reach out and accept what's offered and it was heartwarming watching Janine's interactions with her support network. Reuniting with her daughter Harmony and meeting grandaughter Lottie for the first time, another step in the healing process. I cheered each and every one of Janine's steps to reclaiming her self.
I loved catching up with the characters from One Mountain Away; they're the trustees of the mountain cabin called The Goddess House, a safe haven for women needing a fresh start or second chance. Emilie Richards keeps it very real when we see how Harmony and Taylor are fairing, their emotions and reactions resonated with me. It's the women that hold my attention, rather than the mystery but I must admit I enjoyed the challenges Adam Pryor brought to the mix.
I want so much to convey my love for the gorgeous, lyrical quality, the raw honesty of Emilie Richards' writing but relating so personally has made this a difficult review to write ... my brain is cramping. I can't rave enough about the series and I really love the titles, they represent the themes of each book so beautifully.
"Abandon perfection. Welcome reflection. Nuture connection." Taylor paused. "And to that I think we need to add 'offer protection.'" (less)
*Shock horror* this is my first Robyn Carr novel, my friend Karen who guest reviews here loves Carr's Virgin River and Thunder Point series b...more4.5 stars
*Shock horror* this is my first Robyn Carr novel, my friend Karen who guest reviews here loves Carr's Virgin River and Thunder Point series but I've just not found the time to start despite her encouragement. I know, I know I'm missing out. Four Friends has a similar feel to Susan Mallery's Three Sisters, my favourite in her Blackberry Island series. Where the things I love ... family dynamics, friendship, in particular the strength in womens' friendship come together in a way that feels completely real.
I connected with each of the women, finding a little of myself in all of them, ok maybe not Sonja lol. Their stories touched me, but most of all their friendship touched me ... the support, tough love, sarcasm, humour and honesty.
We all face challenges in our lives, marriages, careers, with our children, health, ... nobody is exempt, nobody has the perfect life and these four women are no different. Maybe it's a little contrived, they live in the same street and they're all going through 'stuff' at the same time but their issues are real and I was so caught up I didn't care. They're coming apart at the seams and I'm loving it ... hmm what does that say about me ... HA
Gerri doesn't have it all but anger, therapy and testosterone cream tip the balance.
Andy, two failed marriages but this time ... it's different.
Sonja keeps it together by controlling everything with new age serenity. Her unraveling was sad to read but her 'recovery' had me giggling.
BJ reserved but intuitive, new to the neighbourhood, just new enough to see what others are too close to see. Dropping barriers brings friendship and the sun.
A fun, insightful read, I could see myself in this friendship circle.(less)
So much to love in Comfort of Fences ... for all the heartache there's just as much hilarity, it's one of those stories that makes you feel...more4.5 stars
So much to love in Comfort of Fences ... for all the heartache there's just as much hilarity, it's one of those stories that makes you feel protected and loved, wrapped in a warm blanket.
The relationship between mother, daughter and best friend made me laugh, cry and smile in recognition. Unconditional love, mistakes, joys, sorrows and - right or wrong, the barriers erected to protect ourselves and others.
I console myself that Georgia's coming, and then smile. My white knight will not ride in on a white horse. My white knight is an old, red-haired, irreverent lady who always knows when to hold my hand and when to kick my butt.
As Ruth writes her life story for her daughter, we are taken back to mid 1950's; Ruth falls pregnant, Ruth and Georgia become firm friends and Denise enters the world. It's an intimate and touching look at their lives, loves and losses. Fast forward, and Ruth's advancing cancer is viewed with honesty and humour as she hastily makes plans for her 52 year old daughter's future (over-protectiveness can be a double-edged sword.) Denise's underestimated resilience and strength is inspiring and I adored Georgia for her unwavering loyalty and snark.
"Speaking of bodily functions, that reminds me. I brought you something." Georgia returns from the guest bedroom with two pair of gaudily sequinned adult diapers. "I figured when you have to wear these things, you might as well make a statement."
Stacy Overman Morrison effortlessly captures uniquely-special female friendships and the strength of family ties.
Wouldn't we all grow beautifully in big pastures with distant fences.(less)
An entertaining, often laugh-out-loud, sometimes cringe-worthy read about the overtly depraved world of chefs and cooks from master of crass,...more3.5 stars
An entertaining, often laugh-out-loud, sometimes cringe-worthy read about the overtly depraved world of chefs and cooks from master of crass, Anthony Bourdain. Not so much shocking, but ugly, irreverent, honest and ... hilarious; well I thought so ;)
It's as much about rails of coke and humping in the dry goods area, sexual misadventures, as it is about Anthony's highly contagious love of food and the day-to-day adrenaline rush of running a kitchen - from his first oyster as a child in France to executive chef at NYC's Les Halles. He's abrasive and vulgar, but his loyalty and self-deprecating humour and honesty is almost endearing.
"We were high all the time, sneaking off to the walk-in at every opportunity to conceptualise. Hardly a decision was made without drugs; pot, Quaaludes, cocaine, LSD, Psilocybin mushrooms soaked in honey and used to sweeten tea, Seconal ..."
There were no particularly shocking "trade secrets" ...
don't order seafood on Mondays
stay away from "specials of the day"
skip the mussels
if you're thinking of opening a restaurant ... don't
but the drug culture was an eye-opener. Anthony's gravelly voice is an easy listen so if you're up for a few hours of entertainment and don't mind your politically correct senses (and ears) being assaulted then you might just enjoy this wild, if slightly dated ride. (less)
I'm a huge Amy Hatvany fan! I love her writing so much she's now one of my auto-buy authors. I've loved her previous novels Best Kept Secret, Outside...moreI'm a huge Amy Hatvany fan! I love her writing so much she's now one of my auto-buy authors. I've loved her previous novels Best Kept Secret, Outside the Lines, and Heart Like Mine. Safe With Me was unputdownable, one of those stories you read with dread, you know the sort - you don't want to look/you can't look away - but ultimately, it's hopeful.
Single mum Hannah grieves the loss of her daughter after a tragic accident but her decision to donate Emily's organs is a gift of life for others. Olivia's daughter Maddie is the recipient of Emily's liver. Then fate sees Hannah, Olivia and Maddie's lives intersect further.
I guess I should mention I'm a little torn about Safe With Me, torn between too much and just right. I've never experienced that with Amy's books, I never have to question ...
It's a big ask, covering two emotionally intense topics, organ donation and domestic violence but I believe Amy gives both the respect they deserve. Hannah's grief seeps from the pages and Olivia's feelings, trapped in an abusive marriage, felt real to me. Too much? I honestly don't know, maybe I'm leaning that way because given my history I found it tough to read. Maybe it needed a few more pages. What I do know is Amy Hatvany got the emotion right.
Hannah, Olivia and Maddie are scarred in different ways, on a different personal journey, but for all three, the common thread is healing and moving forward.
Safe With Me is written with Amy's trademark sensitivity and depth of understanding. I adore that quality, it's a rare gift to take issues of sensitivity, controversy, judgement and even stigma, present them with raw honesty and emotion and leave a little piece in reader's hearts.
Believe me you are missing out if you haven't read one of Amy's beautiful novels. (less)
I rarely, if ever read a series out of order but the publisher assured me this book worked well as a stand alone. Not sure I agree but too late now. I...moreI rarely, if ever read a series out of order but the publisher assured me this book worked well as a stand alone. Not sure I agree but too late now. I certainly enjoyed the writing style but I think I'd have got more out of Thursday's Children if I'd read the previous books in the series.
Frieda Klein ... hmm. Reading the books in order do you feel more of a connection with her? Obviously she's a very good psychotherapist but she also comes across as a hard-ass, emotions tightly in check. I'm sure the woman has a heart in there? And she does have a close-knit circle of friends so that's gotta be good. Right? Frieda's friend Josef is particularly adorable.
Frieda returns to her home town on the trail of a rapist/murderer whilst piecing together traumatic memories from her own past. Add to the mix, she's not been back to Braxton since leaving 23 years ago and her mother is now dying and unlikable, although I'm guessing she was unlikable long before she was dying.
It's a gripping crime fiction with a bleak, menacing feel ... sad to read of young rape victims not being believed by family members.
There were a number of references to Dean Reeve but not having read the previous books I'm a bit lost on his significance and the connection between him and Frieda, other than it ain't feel-good.
One of the greatest love stories, the 25 year affair and eventual marriage of Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, younger son of...moreOne of the greatest love stories, the 25 year affair and eventual marriage of Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, younger son of King Edward III.
The story isn't new to me, I read the classic, Anya Seton's Katherine quite a few years ago and was excited to read Anne O'Brien's take on things. There's little documented of Katherine which offers an author quite a bit of freedom but Anne O'Brien grounds this fictionalised story firmly in historical events; The Black Death, the Peasants' Revolt, The Hundred Years' War.
I was once again surprised that John & Katherine's longstanding, passionate affair didn't elicit more sympathy from me, for John's wife, Constance of Castile. But, no attacks of conscience here. For me, great love definitely won over strategic alliance.
John was one of the most charismatic and influential men of his time ... I'd have had a hard time refusing his mistress offer, even fearing for my reputation and mortal soul. HA
John and Katherine had four 'Beaufort' children together, legitimised after their marriage, and from their descendants came the Royal Houses of York and Tudor ... a very significant couple to dynastic England.
Through political unrest, public scandal, great shame, separation and sorrow, their love stood the test of time. (less)
I've read all of Heather Gudenkauf's books and I love her writing. She has a gift for taking readers to an often uncomfortable place, immersing you in...moreI've read all of Heather Gudenkauf's books and I love her writing. She has a gift for taking readers to an often uncomfortable place, immersing you in issues of sensitivity and judgement but with such compassion you're enlightened and enriched. I read Little Mercies until 3 am, it's just not a book you can put down.
As a social worker Ellen sees unimaginable horrors inflicted on innocents. For Ellen and her family, a moment of distraction has devastating and life altering consequences. Consequences that felt so real to me, I kid you not I think my heart stopped ... such suffocating dread. What happened to Ellen could happen to anyone.
The contrast between abuse and neglect and a terrible mistake culminating in the same legal consequences was actually horrifying to read. On one hand you understand the absolute necessity of protecting children and on the other to have an accident 'judged' as abuse seems like perverse punishment on top of a punishment that's already incomprehensible.
It's unimaginable isn't it? It makes my heart do unpleasant things just thinking about it ... how would you cope if what you loved most, everything you held dear was at risk?
Told from the perspective of Ellen and 10 year old Jenny, the gutsy, vulnerable little girl separated from her father ... the dual storylines merge effortlessly, complimenting rather than competing. I adored Ellen's mother Maudene with her big heart and gentle, compassionate nature.
My only complaint ... it ended before I was ready, tied up not too neatly but too quickly. But you know what, the emotion is still with me, days after finishing ... in my book that's deserving of 5 stars.
A perfect bookclub read and fans of Amy Hatvany and Diane Chamberlain will love Heather Gudenkauf's latest.
Little Lies, the prequel to Little Mercies was a really enjoyable short story and a good lead in to Little Mercies; not essential to the story but a nice bonus. (less)
I loved the first book in this series, Lady of Ashes, and have been keenly awaiting the second instalment. Stolen Remains was an enjoyable re...more3.5 stars
I loved the first book in this series, Lady of Ashes, and have been keenly awaiting the second instalment. Stolen Remains was an enjoyable read but for me it didn't have quite the same appeal as its predecessor.
The Victorian setting continues to fascinate me as does Violet's undertaking and embalming practices. At the behest of Queen Victoria, Violet provides her services to the deceased Anthony Fairmont and his family, (who are mostly an unlikable bunch) with suspicious circumstances seeing her also take on the role of unconventional detective. Mind you, her deductive skills make Scotland Yard look like blundering fools.
The whole mystery is neatly entwined with interesting historical events of the time; the construction of the Suez Canal, the 'hushed up' use of corvee labour on the project and Alfred Nobel's invention of dynamite.
As pieces of the mystery jigsaw are revealed there were a couple of times I found myself eye-rolling, thinking 'as if' ... the coincidences seemed just a little too convenient but all up I liked Stolen Remains and I'm looking forward to Sacred Remains in 2015. (less)
I was lucky enough to discover Jennifer Scoullar's gorgeous writing in 2013 with Currawong Creek. This year it's Billabong Bend and I am crus...more4.5 stars
I was lucky enough to discover Jennifer Scoullar's gorgeous writing in 2013 with Currawong Creek. This year it's Billabong Bend and I am crushing on the loveliness. Jennifer Scoullar's love of nature literally oozes from the pages, the beautiful descriptiveness puts you right there, soaking it all in.
The dawn chorus of birdsong and the smell of dew-damp leaves. The steam curling from the reedy river. The hushed expectancy and mysterious early landscape of shadow and light.
Cotton farming, water stealing and drought necessitate a different approach to farming and Nina is doing that and more with her property Red Gums in the Murray-Darling Basin region of NSW. She's a floodplains grazier, passionate about rehabilitation of the Bunyip River and her land and preserving the wetlands of neighbouring Billabong Bend as a wildlife sanctuary.
Ric returns to his father's cotton farm bringing with him the daughter he's only just met. Sophie is a precocious, endearing 9 year old. It was easy to understand the bond quickly forged with Nina over a mutual love of animals and a thirst for learning about nature whilst the connection between father and daughter was a little more challenging to establish.
Billabong Bend is a delicate balance of family dynamics, river stories, environmental issues and romance. The re-kindled relationship between Nina and Ric felt authentic, both the chemistry and the stumbling blocks to their happiness.
I love Jennifer Scoullar's passionate and respectful approach to the environment; rehabilitation, conservation and sustainability and it was impossible not to be caught up in Nina's love of all the species dependent on the wetlands.
There were so many tender, sigh-worthy moments that had me tearing up ... the rare magpie geese being taught to fly and Guddu's story being just two.
I'm not ready to say goodbye ... any chance of a sequel??
PS. with yet another beautiful story Jennifer Scoullar goes on my auto-buy list. (less)
This book was an absolute joy to listen to, the weekly gathering of residents of The Alexander for the first two seasons of Downton Abbey, th...more4.5 stars
This book was an absolute joy to listen to, the weekly gathering of residents of The Alexander for the first two seasons of Downton Abbey, themed food and drinks had me green with envy but it was more than this much loved show.
It's about people connecting, concierge Edward and Downton Abbey are the vehicle for these interactions but as Samantha, Claire and Brooke bond and become firm friends, I was caught up in their everyday lives, personal growth, and yes, their wine and sanity sessions. I identified in some way with each of the women and their 'travels' ... the strength of female friendship is a wonderful thing.
Orlagh Cassidy narrates brilliantly, as cliched as it sounds, she brought each of the characters to life; diverse personalities, distinct voices, accents and quirks captured perfectly. For me, Cassidy's narration elevated a good story to an all-round wonderful listening experience.
Friendship, wine and Downton Abbey ... what more could you want.
Put simply ... I adored Orphan Train and didn't want it to end! I've read quite a few fictionalised stories about the Orphan Train Movement, My Notori...morePut simply ... I adored Orphan Train and didn't want it to end! I've read quite a few fictionalised stories about the Orphan Train Movement, My Notorious Life by Kate Manning being one of the best. Orphan Train joins illustrious ranks on my favourite's bookshelf; its quiet strength and beauty just as compelling as the powerful, My Notorious Life.
At almost 18, Molly has 50 hours of community service to complete for stealing a library book ... enter 91 year old Vivian Daly. Molly helps Vivian clean out her attic and becomes a vehicle for Vivian's story. Orphan Train seamlessly transitions between present day Maine and the early 1900's as the orphan trains take children from New York to the midwest and sadly, an uncertain life. Delicate layers peel away, revealing long kept secrets and a story that simultaneously breaks and warms your heart.
As cliched as it sounds, what a joy it was to share Vivian's heartbreaking, courageous and inspirational journey and Molly & Vivian's unique connection. Narrated beautifully with such authenticity I felt like a participant in their rare friendship rather than an observer. I felt their losses, shared their joys, I laughed and cried and cheered as they both found a sense of belonging.
I wanted to love this one, regular readers of my blog know how much I love Dystopia and Enmity held such promise. The synopsis sold me ... sadly the e...moreI wanted to love this one, regular readers of my blog know how much I love Dystopia and Enmity held such promise. The synopsis sold me ... sadly the execution failed to live up to it.
There was enough action to keep the plot moving but poor writing turned something that could have been amazing into a hot mess. It makes me sad criticising an author's 'baby' but I'm just one opinion so be sure to check out other reviews.(less)
I'm so happy I said yes to reading this beautiful story, it was everything promised and more, and the lovely Sherryl Caulfield is a local Br...more4.5 stars
I'm so happy I said yes to reading this beautiful story, it was everything promised and more, and the lovely Sherryl Caulfield is a local Brisbane author. Three of Sherryl's favourite authors are also mine, Diana Gabaldon, Sarah Donati and Paullina Simons ... big shoes to fill but Sherryl Caulfield proved more than up to the task and Seldom Come By stands very much on its own merit. It also reminded me of Gabriele Wills' Muskoka Trilogy, which I adored, set in the same era.
Following the Crowe family of Second Chance Island, Newfoundland and the Dalton family of Toronto, Rebecca and Samuel's love story spans continents, the Great War, triumph and adversity ... it's a love that endures.
There's so much to love; the scenery and icebergs of Newfoundland ... harsh, unforgiving, stark beauty. The severity of the Crowe family's life in sharp contrast to Rebecca's thirst for knowledge and enthusiasm for life. A wonderful blending of historical fact and mesmerising tale, lyrical prose, characters to love and loathe, with a tangible sense of hope throughout.
Halfway through there is an event so shocking, so devastating I was completely overwhelmed with emotion and nausea, yes nausea, it felt that real.
To be so completely transported and immersed in characters' lives is testament to an author's care and skill, and despite the heartache I loved every minute.
Seldom Come By is an exquisite tale of love and loss, forgiveness and healing.
The Bracelet is a sweeping tale following generations of strong women in an Australian family, their loves and losses and the passage of the...more3.5 stars
The Bracelet is a sweeping tale following generations of strong women in an Australian family, their loves and losses and the passage of their heirloom bracelet.
J.J. Sheahan captures the rural landscape and feel of a small community beautifully. It's a nostalgic rendering, with characters that felt real to me ... my favourite being Kate's great gran who reminded me so much of my own Gran ... strong but age bringing with it certain vulnerabilities and frailties, wise, down-to-earth, of the belief a good cup of tea will cure all that ails you, and a cup of tea and a biscuit sets things right.
I loved the historical scope, from Walgett, in 1890's to Wagga during WWII (my parents and grandparents grew up in small towns in rural NSW, I was born in Wagga Wagga in the late 60's and my mother nursed in Wagga so Sheahan’s telling evoked many memories) to present day Yallowin, the small community in the foothills of the Snowy Mountains in NSW.
Kate's return to Yallowin and the family farm following the sudden death of her mother involves much more than the funeral, grief and guilt, it means facing her past and owning her future. It was satisfying to see Kate's growing self awareness and sense of belonging as Gran shared the stories of her forebears and the value of 'the bracelet'
Favourite quote: Remember Grandad used to say, 'Every day above ground is a good one.'
Since Kate and her gran rarely had a cuppa without a biccie, and my gran never had an empty biccie jar, I couldn't resist sharing a recipe for Anzac Biscuits ... my family's preference being for chewy Anzacs rather than crunchy so I've included the recipe I use on my blog.
It was the cover of The Debt of Tamar that caught my attention. Isn't it beautiful? Thankfully it doesn't end with the cover, this debut novel is also...moreIt was the cover of The Debt of Tamar that caught my attention. Isn't it beautiful? Thankfully it doesn't end with the cover, this debut novel is also beautifully written. It's a story of love and loss, redemption, culture and faith.
Spanning centuries; from 16th century Portugal and the Ottoman Empire, to Nazi occupied Paris in the 1940's and present day Turkey and US. I've read quite a bit about The Edict of Expulsion of Jews from Spain and Portugal and find this period in history both horrifying and fascinating.
Beginning with the execution by burning of unrepentant Jews, Doña Antonia Nissim, her daughter Reyna and nephew Jose escape to Turkey with the help of Sultan Sulieman the Magnificent. When Reyna and Jose's daughter Tamar falls in love with the sultan's son, Murat, a decision by Jose sparks the debt, and so begins The Sultan's Curse. This part of the story I was most captivated by, I didn't want to leave.
Fast forward to present day and we follow Selim Osman, last living descendant of the Ottoman Sultans, then to Paris 1941 and the Herzikovas ... sounds confusing but as the story progresses common threads are slowly revealed and the tapestry is pieced together.
The Debt of Tamar has a haunting beauty, it's quite outside the realm of traditional, continuing the central love story of Tamar and Murat through other characters ... thwarted love, eternal love, beautifully entwined.
I understand why Nicole Dweck presented Debt of Tamar in such a way, but it didn't stop me wanting more. The characters felt elusive, fleeting, just a sense of them before they slip into the shadows. It's a story you need to be fully present for as confusion can easily override pleasure ... but maybe that was just me.
All up, a story I'm glad I had the opportunity to read and I look forward to more from Nicole Dweck.(less)
Evening Stars was a nice read but I wanted to love it. Huh, what am I saying ... I expected to love it. I fell in love with Blackberry Island...more3.5 stars
Evening Stars was a nice read but I wanted to love it. Huh, what am I saying ... I expected to love it. I fell in love with Blackberry Island while reading Barefoot Season and Three Sisters ... well I just fell in love.
I feel a bit mean, I liked Evening Stars but Three Sisters made me laugh and cry and sigh, I wanted to live next door, I wanted to be friends with Andi, Boston and Deanna. Held up against that, Evening Stars felt just a little lackluster.
Nina works as a nurse for Pediatrician Andi from Three Sisters. Nina has spent much of her life being the responsible one; from the age of nine, taking care of the house, younger sister Averil and her immature, irresponsible mother, Bonnie. She's spent so long putting others first, her sense of self has disappeared in obligation, lost dreams and resentment and she struggles with relinquishing control.
Character growth is at the centre of Evening Stars and that's something I love to see but sadly I didn't have an emotional connection with any of the characters. I liked them, except for Bonnie, Bonnie I wanted to slap. Bonnie needed her Peter Pan complex smacked right out of her!
I nearly forgot, there are guys ... Dylan and Kyle, they're instrumental to Nina's growth but the romance is almost secondary.
I liked it, I liked how things worked out and you should read it because you can't not read the final Blackberry Island book. And maybe you'll love it? Let me know ...
I fell in love with Helene Young's writing with Half Moon Bay so I was excited to get my hands on Safe Harbour ... yowsers, what an unputdow...more4.5 stars
I fell in love with Helene Young's writing with Half Moon Bay so I was excited to get my hands on Safe Harbour ... yowsers, what an unputdownable stay-up-all-night-nail-biter.
Safe Harbour is set in Banksia Cove, a small town on the Queensland coast not far from Bundaberg. I've spent some time in the Bundaberg/Bargara area and Helene pens not only the setting, but the characters, convincingly.
It's a story of long-held secrets and dark pasts, drugs in sports, marine rescue, cover-ups and corruption. When Darcy Fletcher and Noah Moreton rescue a yachtsman in wild seas they're completely unaware of a far more dangerous storm about to be unleashed.
There's a whole lot going on in Safe Harbour, it's a complex, multifaceted plot but character development isn't sacrificed for plot advancement. So, not only do you really get to know the main characters and care about what happens to them, you do it with your heart in your mouth.
I warmed to Darcy immediately and I might have crushed a bit on local police officer Noah ... the chemistry between Noah and Darcy is undeniable, I swear if they hadn't got it together I would have slapped some sense into them. I loved Rosie, the aboriginal woman who was practically a second mother to Darcy. Rosie's connection to the land, her family and the whales was truly special and beautifully written.
Recommend: In a heartbeat. Suspense keeps the pages turning but it's the relationships you remember. (less)
Through the Cracks is a concise, darkly disturbing read, it's also a story of survival.
I was blown away last year by Honey Brown's psycholog...more4.5 stars
Through the Cracks is a concise, darkly disturbing read, it's also a story of survival.
I was blown away last year by Honey Brown's psychological thriller, Dark Horse and I've been waiting with bated breath for her new book to pop up on NetGalley. I was fortunate (and in a rush) ... grabbed it without even giving the synopsis a glance, total faith that Through the Cracks wouldn't disappoint. Readers have mentioned that the synopsis gave too much away so I took the liberty of paring it down (on my blog) to avoid anything 'spoiler-ish.'
Honey Brown writes brilliantly, Through the Cracks is a whole lot of feeling ...
uncomfortable, shudder-y, heart-sick, sad, angry, I could almost taste despair, it made me want answers and justice and yet, it was told without overly graphic detail. Don't get me wrong, you are left in no doubt about the depravities and horror inflicted but there's nothing gratuitous.
When teenage Adam escapes his abusive father with protective, street-smart, Billy, I felt a sense of wonderment as he began to experience some of what he had missed. Adam and Billy are a complex mix of innocence, naivety, knowledge and jaded despair, old in experiences no child should ever have to experience.
The involvement of people in positions of trust, people with power and influence had me spitting-angry. I wanted to scream at the 'system'. People's apathy made me cry. I was fearful of the outcome but hopeful someone would come through for these boys.
Child abuse; sadly so often in our headlines. Please read Adam's story. (less)